The Labour Party Mayor of Rabat, Sandro Claus, facing criminal charges over the misappropriation and theft of public funds in connection with the phantom job given to the fixer of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Melvin Theuma, has still not been suspended from his taxpayer-paid position at Projects Plus.
It is standard procedure in the public sector that any public official facing criminal charges in court is automatically suspended from the job and put on half pay until a final decision is pronounced.
Instead, Craus is “still attending his work and being given his full financial package”, according to his boss, James Camenzuli, CEO of government agency Projects Plus.
If found not guilty, the suspended employee is given back his job and paid the remainder of the salary due for the suspension period. If found guilty, the employee is usually fired.
For some reason, this has not happened with Craus. At the same time, the move could be considered discriminatory to other employees currently suspended on half pay, according to the rules.
It appears Craus is rarely at work. “The job given to Craus can also be considered a phantom job as he is never here,” a colleague said.
Contacted by The Shift, after months of avoiding questions on the issue, Camenzuli admitted that Craus had not been suspended.
Asked why Craus is being treated differently from any other public officer in the same position, Camenzuli said he was following his government entity’s disciplinary code.
When Robert Abela became prime minister in 2020, Craus, who was at the time disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s head of customer care, resigned.
Instead, he was given a job with Projects Plus, a government agency, and put on a €65,000 financial package as chief business development officer even though Projects Plus only handles projects given to it by the government.
In June 2022, together with Keith Schembri and others, Craus was arraigned in court and charged with facilitating the giving of a phantom job to Melvin Theuma. All involved claim their innocence.
Lawyers who spoke to The Shift said Craus’ treatment by the OPM could lead to other suspended employees opening discrimination procedures in court against the prime minister and Principal Permanent Secretary Tony Sultana.